Bed bugs have made a dramatic comeback over the past decade. They've been found in homes, rental properties, apartments, hotels, child care facilities, nursing homes, even and hospitals.
They feed on the blood of dogs, cats, birds, and rodents. They especially love to feed on the blood of humans. Once bed bugs take over, the process in eradicating the parasites is no easy task.
A Gulfport resident who did not want to be identified says he had a bed bug invasion in his home last year.
"Well, I started seeing these little black bugs and then I started itching all over; me and my whole family. My daughter, my grandson, and me," he said.
He's not alone.
Bed bugs feast on humans mostly at bedtime, or if a person sleeps during the day. Victims don't feel the bites because the parasites inject a numbing agent into the body.
The flattened insects will bite once, become fully engorged, and then seek a safe location for 24 hours. They normally feed every other day.
One of the first places to check for bed bugs is the bed, especially the mattress. They typically congregate along seams and edges of mattresses and box springs, leaving blackish spots.
Physical signs of bed bugs are usually itchy, red bites on the skin. However, some people aren't affected by the bites and show no signs.
WLOX News Now Investigative reporter A.J. Giardina traveled to the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi and met with Randal Pingel, who has a Ph.D. in Entomology with the United State Department of Agriculture.
Pingel says bed bugs were very common in the United States before World World II, but the use of old pesticides such as DDT got rid of the problem.
But now, they're back.
Pingel said, "With the increase of international travel within the last 20 years has brought a resurgence of bed bugs from all over the world - Asia, Africa - and brought them into the United States."
One of the biggest carriers of bed bugs is luggage.
"From going to visit hotels or bringing in their luggage from the hotels, or clothing, or whatever, "stated Pingle. "It moves around and they're in public buildings now. So, it's a hard problem to get rid of.
Travelers should take the following steps to prevent bed bugs:
Check the hotel room bedding, furniture and luggage valet.
Keep your suitcases off the bed and check them for bed bugs when leaving the hotel.
When you return home from travel, do not place luggage, purses or bags on beds or couches.
Check luggage outside for bed bugs first.
If you suspect your clothing has bed bugs, immediately wash and dry them on the hottest
setting for 20 minutes or store them in plastic bags.
The best way to rid a home of bed bugs, call a professional pest control exterminator.
South Mississippi Exterminator Matt Stone says bed bugs are a problem on the Gulf Coast. Five years ago, they received one call a month for bed bug issues. Now - he's receiving five calls a day. Common household pesticides used for fleas or ticks are not effective in eradicating bed bugs and their eggs.
"Majority of the time they'll going to be within six-feet of the host. A host is the bed, a couch, and a chair. That's where you start your process and then they go out from there," said Stone. "They're attracted to shoes, anything that is contacted to the skin. They sense the pheromones."
Stone says they give strict guidelines to homeowners in order to eradicate the bugs. Once the room is prepped, the extermination process begins with a thorough inspection designed to find the nest and the colonies. Then, exterminators use special chemicals to kill the bed bugs and the eggs.
He recommends at least two treatments, two weeks apart.
"When you treat with an approved chemical, you're leaving a residual," said Stone. "If you bring another bed bug within that frame time of that residual, it will take care of them."
Bed bug bites can normally be treated with over the counter ointments or itch medication.
The Mississippi State Department of Health will investigate reports of bed bugs at child care facilities, nursing homes, personal care homes, and other types of licensed care facilities regulated by the state. For additional information, call 601-576-7690.
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